2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Review: A Solid Truck You Should Skip
With the electrified next-gen Taco just around the corner, you’re better off skipping this dated rig.
Truck buyers are different because they don't always want the latest, greatest rig. It's usually OK if whatever pickup they're shopping for doesn't have every feature known to man because they just want it to work, and work well. At the same time, it's hard to justify spending a bunch of cash on a new-but-dated showroom model when a truly new, entirely more innovative version is less than a year away. That's the struggle with the 2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro.
This generation of Tacoma launched as a 2016 model year, and the TRD Pro was brought along later as a 2017. It hasn't changed much since then—it received a (very) mild facelift in 2020—meaning it still has a slow 3.5-liter V6 that leaves it in the domestic competition's dust. The next-gen model is coming for 2024 with a hybrid powertrain that ought to pack a hefty punch, amplifying the existing truck's weak points even more.
It'd be wrong to say the 2023 Tacoma TRD Pro is bad. It just wouldn't be right to call it great. With the fourth-generation Taco dropping so soon, I think everybody's better off waiting for that.
2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Specs
- Base price (as tested): $48,520 ($51,229)
- Powertrain: 3.5-liter V6 | 6-speed automatic transmission | selectable rear-wheel or four-wheel drive with high and low ranges
- Horsepower: 278 @ 6,000 rpm
- Torque: 265 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm
- Curb weight: 4,550 pounds
- Max payload capacity: 1,155 pounds
- Max towing capacity: 6,400 pounds
- Off-road angles: 36.4° approach | 26.6° breakover | 24.7° departure
- Ground clearance: 9.4 inches
- EPA fuel economy: 17 mpg city | 20 highway | 18 combined
- Quick Take: A well-built, totally fine 4x4 that would be enough if the next-gen truck weren't coming soon with better everything.
- Score: 7/10
Toyota is a pretty traditional brand, so it makes sense that the Tacoma has always been a favorite of people who prefer simplicity to newfangled, complex tech. Case in point: you can still get it with a six-speed manual in 2023—yup, even in the TRD Pro model—so it has that going for it. This top-tier off-road trim is for the most dedicated wheelers who want capability and versatility, along with the most advanced features the Tacoma has to offer. It's a mildly confounding mix of modernity and, well, the opposite.
I will give props to the Tacoma's exterior styling, especially in my tester's Solar Octane paint scheme. The LED headlights look pretty sharp thanks in part to the prominent DRLs, and I even like the hood scoop. It's pretty tall, especially when you're looking out the windshield from the cab, but it doesn't compromise outward visibility immediately in front of the truck.
A benefit of the current Tacoma's old-school character is its clean and simple interior. It has a respectably sized eight-inch infotainment screen that's fully incorporated into the dash, while physical buttons and knobs handle stereo and HVAC duties. It's a nice place to be, even if it's a little cramped for tall people like me with a family. I'm six-foot-five, for what it's worth.
Where the Tacoma shows its age most is in its powertrain. The 3.5-liter V6 makes just 270 horsepower—compare that to 310 hp from the Nissan Frontier's 3.8-liter—and the six-speed automatic transmission hunts around at interstate speeds to keep the revs high. It's not as painful when you engage the truck's ECT Power mode, which adjusts the shift points and keeps you in the power band more often, but that should probably be the default setting. Without it, the Tacoma can be irritatingly slow.
Driving the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
It's obvious from the start that the Tacoma is solidly built. It doesn't creak or squeak, which is worth celebrating when so much of what we use every day feels disposable. Toyota's dedication to quality, durability, and reliability shines through here; the same traditional thinking that results in the truck's underpowered but bulletproof V6 is what gets us here, and it's almost an even trade.
The ride is truck-like, which is to say, pretty stiff. I'm not about to crack down on that, though. The Tacoma TRD Pro is an off-roader that shines on tight, technical trails—it's no Ford Raptor, so the suspension isn't tuned for wide-open desert running. It calls back to the 4x4s we grew up with, those that so many of us who live far away from the dunes still appreciate.
Even though it’s bigger than Tacomas of yore, it’s still a lot easier to drive and park than a full-size truck. It handles confidently and does what you ask it to unless you ask it to pass someone in a hurry. Thankfully, with its low-effort steering and driver assists like radar cruise control, the TRD Pro isn’t such a hardcore four-wheeler that it sacrifices road manners.
Still, it's meant to shine most off the pavement. I took the bright orange rig down to our family's creekside property where jagged rocks and loose gravel abound, testing its ground clearance, approach, departure, and breakover angles. It did well thanks to its Goodyear Wrangler all-terrains, two-speed transfer case, and 127.4-inch wheelbase, which is shorter than some UTVs I've tested. It's an impressive crawler; switch it into 4LO and you barely have to touch the throttle on most reasonable inclines.
Just don't engage Crawl Control. The four-wheeling assist is meant to maintain a steady pace while going up or downhill, but it's so jerky and loud that it's unusable. This isn't anything new—the feature has been bad for years—but Toyota fixed it in the new Tundra and Sequoia. I imagine the next Tacoma TRD Pro will get the updated Crawl Control as well, but I really wish the 2023 had it.
The Highs and Lows
The Tacoma is exceptionally maneuverable, even with a trailer hitched to the back. I didn't tow anything on the highway, but I did have a couple of trailers to retrieve from our property before a flood came in. The Toyota didn't squat a lick, even when nearing its 6,400-pound tow limit, and the rear visibility was great when it came time to reverse down our long, crowded driveway.
If the powertrain had a bit more zip, the on-road driving experience would be a delight. It doesn't, though, and what you're left with is a dull daily on the street that not even bright paint and a TRD exhaust can liven up enough.
Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Features, Options, and Competition
The Tacoma’s TRD Pro trim is comprehensive, and there are no available add-on packages. The 1.5-inch front lift is standard, as are the internal bypass Fox shocks, TRD skid plates, Rigid Industries fog LEDs, and surround-view cameras that feed live video to the infotainment screen. You also get Toyota Safety Sense which includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert, automatic high beams, and blind-spot detection. The JBL Audio stereo setup is nice, too.
It competes with other mid-size off-road trucks like the Nissan Frontier Pro-4X and Ford Ranger Tremor. The Nissan is the most similar to the Tacoma with a naturally aspirated V6, though it has a bigger, more powerful 3.8-liter engine making 310 hp. The Ranger Tremor, meanwhile, is propelled by a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder that makes 270 hp—identical to the Tacoma—but 310 lb-ft of torque, an advantage of 45 lb-ft. None of them are total rockstars at high speed; instead, they're best suited for trail driving and all perform exceptionally well.
If I were to buy a Tacoma TRD Pro, I'd spec it just like my tester. I, for one, dig the orange because the paint looks great in both direct and indirect sunlight. I'd probably remove or cover up all the red accents because they just don't jive with the Solar Octane scheme, but aside from that, the truck you see here is pretty much my ideal setup.
I know, I know—the EPA’s website wouldn’t let me select the Tacoma TRD Pro with an automatic transmission, and it's also using a photo of the previous-gen Chevy Colorado. Still, these numbers should be accurate.
The Tacoma TRD Pro isn't great on gas. Fortunately for Toyota, neither are its competitors. Nissan's Frontier Pro-4X sees slightly better combined mileage thanks to a 2-mpg highway advantage, while the turbocharged Ford Ranger nets 19 mpg in the city and on the highway for a combined average of—you guessed it—19 mpg. The 2023 Chevy Colorado wins this one, then, thanks to its 2.7-liter turbo-four that's also big on power.
Value and Verdict
Toyota trucks hold their value so well that it's hard to call the 2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro anything less than a solid buy, even at nearly $52,000. If anything, you can drive one of these home now and then sell it for $20 less a few months down the road when the next-gen hits dealer lots. Maybe that's adding an unnecessary step, but really, I can't blame anyone who wants one of these. I personally would save the money for a 2024 model, assuming it's as good as Toyota promises.
To sum up, the TRD Pro Tacoma is as decent as it's ever been because it really hasn't changed that much. If you'd rather avoid electrification for as long as possible, then this is the new Toyota for you. But if you're even remotely open to a hybrid for the sake of better performance and fuel economy, then I'd hold tight a while longer until the new one comes along.
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